Blog Post 1—building a broad knowledge base using mass-media sources

Article 1: The Real Story on the Great Barrier Reef

This article comes from ‘The Saturday Paper’, an Australian-based weekly newspaper “…dedicated to narrative journalism.” Written by Martin McKenzie-Murray, chief correspondant and regular contributor to the paper, the article discusses the substantial role that climate change is playing in the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the lack of action coming from large, influential organisations such as the United Nations. As a former Labor political speechwriter, it could be reasoned that the author is inclined towards more left-wing views regarding the impact of climate change, evidence of which is seen throughout this article.

The main argument made in the article is that climate change is the major factor behind the demise of the Great Barrier Reef, an argument backed up through reference to a number of high-profile people who would be considered experts in the area of climate change, most notably Professor John ‘Charlie’ Veron, the former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The use of these experts makes the article appear more trustworthy and more believable to readers. Looking deeper, however, it is reasonable to conclude that the author has chosen his references on the basis that they align with his own position on the issue, quite possibly possessing strong left-wing orientations themselves, and neglecting to refer to sources which may contradict this position, thus calling into question the validity of the author’s argument. Further, the article presents as fact the evidence claiming that climate change is the sole or main factor damaging the reef, rather than presenting the evidence both for and against that position, and weighing the two. In this way, whilst the article is factual and well-researched, both characteristics of narrative journalism, it also possesses strong bias, diminishing its reliability and trustworthiness. Overall, whilst I feel there are some strong arguments around the issue of climate change and its harsh impacts on the Great Barrier Reef presented both in this article and across the majority of others which I read, it would in my view be unwise to treat this article as definitive proof of the issue due to its failure to acknowledge that there are two sides to the debate.

McKenzie-Murray, M. 2016, ‘The Real Story on the Great Barrier Reef’, The Saturday Paper, 4 June, viewed 2 August 2016, <;.

Article 2: Mangrove Desolation Linked to Climate Change

This article was published in ‘New Matilda’, an independent news source which covers both local and international politics, media and culture. According to its website, it is not affiliated with any particular political organisation, suggesting that its articles should be unbiased. Written by Thom Mitchell, the environmental and industrial relations reporter for the news source, the article discusses the recent loss of large areas of mangroves near the Gulf of Carpentaria. The overriding tone of the article is one of support for the linking of this event to climate change, and, whilst the linking of climate change to the degradation of the natural environment is a common theme in current news articles, it is reasonable to question the validity of the argument in this particular source. Throughout the article, the author references just one single source—Professor Norman Duke—without any description of his qualifications. Mitchell uses large volumes of quotes from Duke, making no obvious attempt to analyse the content, nor question any of the points of view presented. This decreases significantly the reliability of the article, and highlights the strongly opinion-based nature of it. Overall, it would appear that this article is under-researched, with very little attempt made to mention that there may be other explanations as to the mangrove’s demise. In an attempt to increase the validity of the source, Mitchell draws connections between this event and the coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, both of which allegedly occurred around the same time. Whilst on the surface this would appear to demonstrate the close associations between climate change and the loss of natural environments, Mitchell provides no scientific studies to back the statement up. I agree that all evidence provided by Mitchell appears to point to the loss of the mangroves as stemming from climate change, however, it must be noted that the ‘evidence’ that he relies on is extremely selective and no attempt is made to weigh up alternative evidence in order to facilitate a balanced, scientific and educated analysis of the position.

Mitchell, T. 2016, ‘Mangrove Desolation Linked to Climate Change’, New Matilda, 12 July, viewed 2 August 2016, <;.

Article 3: Shrinking Shorebirds Pay the Price for Arctic Warming When They Reach the Tropics

This article is from ABC Science Online, a section of ABC News dedicated to articles on science. It was written by Dani Cooper, a freelance writer for ABC Science with over 20 years experience as a journalist, and it discusses the possible links between physical changes occurring in a subspecies of Red Knot Bird, and altered conditions at the bird’s migration ground, being attributed to global warming. Overall, the article appears very well-researched and factual, making reference to the views of a number of experts, as well as the Science journal which published the study on the birds, which it uses as a springboard to explore the issue and arguments surrounding it. The article could be seen to be quite reliable because of its exploration of both sides of the argument, as well as the recognition that the study undertaken on the birds is quite recent, so whilst present research points to the physical alterations being an indirect consequence of climate change, there is still the possibility that this position could change. It would appear that, unlike in the previous two articles, this author is simply relaying facts that have been distributed by experts, rather than attempting to argue a specific point of view. This makes the article very reliable, allowing the reader to make their own judgement from the facts presented, and contrasts strongly with the majority of other news articles I have read, which all advocate strongly for a particular viewpoint, and carry strong bias. In light of this, I very much agree with the facts presented in the article, and feel that the author has done a very good job of curating different sources together in order to present a balanced and informative source.

Cooper, D. 2016, ‘Shrinking Shorebirds Pay the Price for Arctic Warming When They Reach the Tropics’, ABC Science Online, 13 May, viewed 27 July 2016, <>.

Article 4: Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Would be Almost Impossible Without Climate Change

This article was published on ‘The Conversation’, an independent news source which promises “academic excellence, journalistic flair”, and which is arguably more trustworthy than general news sites because it gathers its content from academic sources. This particular article was authored by Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne; David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne; Mitchell Black, PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne; Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland; and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales Australia. It discusses the possible extent to which climate change is contributing to coral bleaching events, such as the one which occurred in the Great Barrier Reef in April 2016, allegedly the worst to date. Throughout the article, there is an obvious push towards the view that climate change caused by human influence is having a large impact on the likelihood of bleaching events, however, the article can be considered relatively unbiased because it is backed up by strong and detailed evidence of studies which have been carried out in this area, and it balances both sides of the argument. This is unlike some of the other articles I read which pushed strongly for a particular viewpoint without presenting both sides of the argument. Increasing the reliability of this article further is the fact that it was authored by five different people, each with a different job title and qualification. This means that the views of each separate person have had to be collated and synthesised into one coherent argument, leaving little room for bias, the result of which is presented in this source. Overall I feel that this is a very well-presented argument which is very factual and well-researched, and one which I am very much inclined to agree with.

Black, M., Hoegh-Guldberg, H., Karoly, D., King, A. & Perkins-Kirkpatrick, P. 2016, ‘Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Would be Almost Impossible Without Climate Change’, The Conversation, 29 April, viewed 4 August 2016, <>

Article 5: We Don’t Want to Believe in Climate Change

This article appeared in the December/January 2013–2014 issue of The Monthly. Whilst this would not necessarily be considered a recent article, I have chosen to include it because I found the views and arguments that it put forward challenged my existing perceptions of people’s views on climate change. Written by Robert Kenny, a writer and scholar with a PhD in history, the article promotes and discusses the idea that we are all, in part, climate change deniers, despite the concrete scientific evidence which supports climate change, and we often try to pass the blame from ourselves to others, reasoning that whatever part we are playing individually in climate change, there are other people/companies who are having more of an impact. Overall, this article is strongly opinion-based, with apparent left-wing influences, and it makes little use of other reputable sources to back up claims and statements. This is combined with the use of emotive language to appeal to the viewer’s emotions, rather than the use of facts and data to appeal to the viewer’s mind, creating a seemingly biased and unreliable source. However, it would appear that the intention of this article is in fact not to educate people on climate change facts and provide them with reasoned arguments, but it is rather to incite conversation and really get people to take ownership of their own impacts on climate change—an aim which it achieves very well. Certainly for me, the argument put forward in this article that we all are to an extent climate change deniers resonated strongly as I came to realise that this is true in my own experience, and that it is not something that I ever admit to myself, but which deep down I know to be true. This is not a mainstream idea put forward in other secondary sources, perhaps because journalists and indeed scientists do not want to admit their faults, but it is an idea that I will carry with me as I continue to research and read numerous other articles.

Kenny, R. 2013–2014, ‘We Don’t Want to Believe in Climate Change’, The Monthly, December–January, viewed 10 August 2016, <>

Three Directions

Through analysing the 5 secondary articles, I have come to identify the following 3 positions which I think are worth investigating further:

• People’s views on climate change are influenced by their cultural values.

I believe that this is an interesting position to explore as it would hopefully open up a range of new perspectives on the issue of climate change, whilst at the same time allowing me to explore how a piece of visual communication design may need to be targeted at more personal aspects of people’s lives, rather than at their assumed knowledge base.

• Climate change is caused solely by human activities.

I feel that this is an interesting position to explore because of the debate that will be uncovered through a further investigation. Whilst the majority of the articles I have read so far point to human-induced climate change, I am interested in looking further into the evidence for and against this argument, so as to form my own informed view on the position.

• We are all in a sense climate change deniers as we try to pass the blame of the issue to others.

This position resonated very strongly with me because it made me really consider my own denial of my contribution to climate change, and also my general lack of consideration of my daily activities which may contribute to climate change. I would be interested in looking at how this position resonates with other people, and whether they tend to avoid this viewpoint or whether they are very aware of their actions.

Emilie Glasson